COVID-19 Tracking

Standard economic data like the monthly employment reports, quarterly GDP, and the like remain the best way to track what is happening in the Oregon economy. However, COVID-19 and the pandemic has been moving so fast that trying to assess the current state of the economy is challenging with backward looking reports. Below are 10 charts of real-time data points our office is tracking. We will update these weekly, most likely on Thursdays given the data release schedule.

Latest update: Friday, September 18th, 2020

COVID-19

First and foremost the current crisis is directly related to the pandemic. A fully healthy economy is unlikely unless businesses and households are confident in their safety. That will not happen until the pandemic is managed and brought under control. The first two charts show the number of tests, positive results, and the positivity rate of the tests here in Oregon. Data available here. Keep in mind this data is based on the date of when the test is given, not when the results are known. As such the historical data is revised slightly as more test results are known.

Economic

Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance

Initial claims are typically one of the best leading indicators we have and are a measure of layoffs happening in the economy. While we have seen considerable improvements in recent months, initial claims continue to be just a little bit higher than what we have seen in recent years leading up to the pandemic. Data from the Oregon Employment Department can be found here.

New Business Applications

Business closures are a key concern during the pandemic as the more permanent damage done to the economy, the longer and harder the recovery will be. We lack timely data on closures, however we do have indicators of new business formation. Start-up activity by itself is vital for economic growth. However it is even more important today given we know we will need to replace businesses that closed their doors. Weekly Census business application data here, Oregon Secretary of State monthly filings here.

Going out to Eat

Data from OpenTable available here is one indicator of how comfortable people are going out to eat, spending money and the like. The spike earlier this month was largely about the shift in when Labor Day fell. The gap in the past week where Oregon is down significantly more than the nation is likely due to the wildfires.

State Revenues

Withholding

Withholdings are generally based on wages and are therefore a good indicator of the strength of the labor market and underlying taxable wages. However taxpayers can also withhold from other sources of income such as retirement, bonuses, unemployment insurance and the like. The data is incredibly noisy but a good real-time indicator. Since the start of the pandemic withholdings are up a percent or two on a year-ago basis, however without withholding out of unemployment insurance, withholdings would be down a couple percent.

Oregon Video Lottery Sales

Weekly video lottery sales are a timely measure of discretionary consumer spending in Oregon. Sales have rebounded strongly as the economy reopened and are currently running about 10 percent below year-ago sales levels. Sales show no real signs of deterioration since the expiration of the expanded unemployment insurance benefits at the end of July.

Note that our friends at OLCC publish charts based on monthly marijuana sales data, and our friends at Department of Revenue publish monthly marijuana tax collections.

Mobility

ODOT Traffic Counts

Biweekly reports from ODOT are available here. The data show that while Oregonians are driving considerably more today than during the shutdown, Oregonians are still driving less today than last year across most of the state.

Dallas Fed Mobility and Engagement Index

Learn more about this new mobility index here, where you can find metro and county data as well. Overall it measures activity based on mobile devices and whether they leave home, whether they stay at a fixed location for hours, distance of long trips taken, etc. I suspect the drop at the end of last week was fire-related as we all stayed indoors as much as possible, but we need another week or two of data to confirm.

PDX Passenger Traffic

While Oregonians are driving and traveling more in recent months, expectations are that air travel will take longer to recover and be among the last sectors to fully return to health given the pandemic. Monthly PDX traffic available here, and daily U.S. TSA numbers available here.

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